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Political editor urges media to reflect on election ‘failure’

Jen WilliamsAn award-winning regional political journalist has urged the media to reflect on its “failure” to see the surge in support for the Labour Party during the General Election campaign.

Jen Williams, left, political editor at the Manchester Evening News, says political journalism needs to re-establish its “value and credentials” following Thursday’s vote, which resulted in no party gaining an overall majority.

If not, Jen believes newspapers will face the “terrifying” prospect of being drowned out by fake news websites in future.

Despite a 20pc lead for the Tories at the start of the campaign, subsequent polls showed a steady narrowing of the gap – although few predicted it to be close enough to result in a hung parliament.

On Twitter, Jen wrote: “Pretty much all media failed to see Labour surge coming. Some of this was for reasonable reasons and some was a failure in journalism. Before everyone goes back to business as usual, might be wise for British journalists to reflect carefully and honestly on the reasons.

“There is a democratic reason for this, never mind the practical ones and just generally the ones about self respect. Because he terrifying anti-journalism narrative that has been rising over the last year or two here and in the US has been fuelled further, it’s not enough to say ‘let’s get [political blog] The Canary on tv to compensate for our failure’.

“If political journalism can’t re-establish its value and credentials, there are plenty of fake news sites waiting to drown it out. Personally, that’s terrifying.”

Jen admitted that the Manchester Arena terror attack, which took place during the course of  election campaign and was covered with widespread acclaim by the MEN, had inevitably impacted on its election coverage.

She added: “The thing I wish I’d done far more of is spend ages and ages talking to voters. Will definitely do more next time.

“Although in fairness we had extensive plans for this pre-Arena attack. I’m sure we won’t have long to wait for another bite at it anyway.”

Jen won the specialiast journalist of the year award at last month’s Regional Press Awards.

2 comments

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  • June 14, 2017 at 10:07 am
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    It’s not just political journalism it’s wider journalism. It’s dominated by the same demographic as the people actually in politics and their advisors. It used to be a ‘trade’ which people joined straight from school, many had working class roots – those days are well and truly gone.

    These days you need a few grand just to do the training then someone to subsidise you while you intern or live off a terrible wage for a few months if not years while you try and gain a foothold.

    As a result, everyone has the same outlook on a huge range of issues because they’re mainly from the same backgrounds.

    With regards political journalism though, it’s largely a joke, I should know because I used to be one. I had no time at all to forge links with people or spend time at the town hall or with MPs, sued to read 20 page council agendas on the bog in the morning before being deluged by the usual minutiae that I had to turn into 20 nibs before 9am which constituted about 90% of the paper.

    I wonder how many newspapers even attend town hall meetings these days? At all?

    Even at national level, it’s basically the ‘lobby system’ where the same stale old faces get fed press releases and regurgitate most of it to the letter in case they fall out of favour and no longer get invited to parties.

    The ‘fake’ and ‘alternative’ news issue is a worry but it has its roots in the neglect shown to the real issues by corporate media. Newspapers treat readers with absolute disdain, polishing manure and calling it gold and still expecting them to buy it, so it’s no surprise they went looking elsewhere for their information.

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  • June 14, 2017 at 1:44 pm
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    “On Twitter, Jen wrote”
    Irony?
    Shurely shome mishtake. 😉

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